BARBARA STORZ | SPECIAL TO THE MONITOR
Petunias have long been a mainstay in summer gardens north of the Rio Grande Valley. In our climate, however, they do very well planted in the fall and may last until the heat sets in (usually in April). This is especially true of petunias that are planted in containers that can be moved to avoid inclement weather and heavy winds.
Most modern hybrid petunias are developed for their uses. There are four general types:
>> Grandiflora petunias grow 3 to 4 inches upright, then usually fall over the sides of a container.
>> Multiflora petunias have abundant, smaller flowers than Grandiflora.
>> Miliflora petunias are miniature versions of the above petunias with smaller flowers that rebloom.
>> Spreading petunias make excellent ground covers and reach heights of 6 inches.
Petunias require full sun, regular irrigation and enriched soil. If you are putting them in a flower bed, during the fall and winter, watering every five to seven days is good, depending on your soil type. In containers, petunias may need to be watered more frequently, especially if we have a series of windy days. Check soil moisture by digging down 2 to 3 inches with a trowel. If the soil is still moist, then delay watering.
Petunias are heavy feeders. Enrich garden soil with compost and provide fertilizer meant for blooming plants on a regular basis to keep the flowers coming. Some varieties will produce lots more flowers and for a longer period of time if you deadhead them. This may not be practical in a garden bed, but an easy task in containers.
Petunias come in many flower forms and colors. Double and ruffled edges are available and colors range from white to black with blues, purples, yellows and many shades of reds and pinks available. Stripes and blotches of color are frequently seen, both as transplants at the nurseries or from seed companies.
Petunias can be a real powerful punch of color in a hanging basket or in combination with container plants, such as lantana, coleus and sweet potato vine. They also look great hanging over the edge of window boxes. Just remember to give them full sun, water and fertilizer, and move them inside in the event of extreme cold weather.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. Listen to her garden radio show at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Ra-dio, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.